Karma-based pricing models for games

Slashdot links to an interview with Gabe Newell, of the Valve fame.  I think this idea is pretty interesting:

The issue that we’re struggling with quite a bit is something I’ve kind of talked about before, which is: how do you properly value people’s contributions to a community? … An example is – and this is something as an industry we should be doing better – is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with. … “So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get DOTA 2 for free, because of past behavior in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice.’

Karma-based systems aren’t the easiest ones to figure out.  But they have plenty of potential.  Given enough will, effort, and tweaking, I think this can be done.  How well it will actually work – remains to be seen.

Board games on steroids

Yesterday we had an interesting discussion with a colleague of mine.  We discussed the evolution of games, and, especially board games.  After a bit of whining and complaining, nostalgic tears, and laughter, our discussion took a more creative turn.  Together we came up with a few ideas on how to push the evolution of board games, given all that we’ve learned from other games in the last few decades.  Here are some of the ideas that we discussed.

3D Cross Zero

Firstly, the game that I’ve played plenty at high school.  The one where you have a 3×3 squares fields and two players draw crosses (one) and zeroes (the other) trying to put 3 in a row or column or diagonal and, at the same time, prevent the opponent from doing the same.

The game by itself is very simple and engaging.  Unfortunately, it has only so many combinations, and after playing it for a bit you’d know each and every one of them.  Especially those that increase your chances for success.

Now, the 3D Cross Zero game would have two important differences from the classic variant.

  1. The playing field can be endless.  No need to limit the game to 3×3.  You can have as many squares as you need, and you can play anywhere.
  2. The playing field won’t be limited to two dimensions.  That’s right!  You will be able to put three crosses or zeros up or down or on a vertical diagonal.

Chess Team Death Match

Chess is an ancient game, and it is a flexible one too.  But it’s a bit boring if you have more than 2 people who want to play.  Chess TDM comes to the rescue.  The number of teams and players per team can be adjusted as needed.  The different sets of rules can be adjusted as well.  Think Quake.  Consider, for example, a 4×4 – two teams of four players each.

Each player has a complete set of figures.  For this scenario you’ll need a board of 32×8 squares just to line figures up.  But given these armies on both sides, it will be a bit more fun if the board is slightly bigger.  Say 40×40.

Now, depending on how you want to play it, you can have either each player command his own figures, or teammates can command figures of specific class only – for example one player does pawns, the other does knights, etc.  You can limit the number of figures that each player can command, so that for example, you’ll need 2 pawn commanders.

The objective of the game can be different as well.  Still thinking Quake, you can have a free for all (each player for himself), or capture the flag, or team death match, or duel.  Oh, wait, no, you already have with the classic chess.

Chess Monopoly

Here is another chess variation – Chess Monopoly.  You play on the same chess board, but each square has properties and rent values associated with it like in the monopoly game.  The money are involved too.

This will give you an option of more strategies, ones involving pushing the opponent to more expensive squares and draining him of financials.

The money you earn can be used on resurrection of your killed figures, or purchase of additional army units or blocking parts of the board at all.  Private property sort of thing - trespasser will be shot on sight.


It took us less than 5 minutes to come up with these three ideas.  I’m sure we can do more, much more.  Too bad these won’t ever get implemented, or played and enjoyed.  Sad.

Doctor ibn Engineer

I had an interesting idea today, which somehow transformed into a rather lengthy thought train, which, in turn, pushed me to browse quite a bit of Wikipedia, and, finally, to write this blog post.   It’s just one of those things that I spent some time thinking about which has no practical purpose rather then annoy and entertain readers of this blog and confusing Google into bringing in more people, searching for rather random things.

I started off with names and naming conventions.  People names, to be more precise, and how different cultures approached the naming.  Remember, those Arabic names that trace the ancestry of a person using the “ibn” word,  which means the “son of”.  Abdul ibn Hasan ibn Abdurahman ibn Foo ibn Blah ibn .. it can go for ever.  No, remember those surnames based on the profession of a person, used by many cultures.  Baker, Fisher, Hunter, Miller, Parker, and so on.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see these two paradigms mixed up.  We’d still use “ibn” to indicate the “son of” part.  But instead of meaningless father’s name we’d use father’s profession.  In conjunction with the regular first name and last name that could give some really awesome names.  For example, my son could have been Maxim ibn Programmer ibn Engineer ibn Projectionist Mamchenkov.  How cool is that? For a change, most people’s full names would be interesting.  The downside?  Those families with the same profession running through generation would be really boring.  But they would still have something to feel proud about.  John ibn Doctor ibn Doctor ibn Doctor ibn Doctor ibn Doctor Healer.  I’d be more than willing to trust my health into his capable hands!

What would your name be like?

Make your kids rich. Just a thought.

I had to visit the bank today.  Since I was on my way to the park (with Maxim), I decided to take him in.  While we were standing in the queue, one of the clerks stopped by to say hi.  She played a bit with Maxim and suggested that we open an account for him.  I thought she was kidding, so I replied in a Fargo-ish way “Oh, yeah.  Right”. Surprisingly, she looked at me very seriously and said that she wasn’t joking one bit.

Needless to say I got interested.  She said that all I had to do was to bring Maxim’s birth certificate, and based on this document she can open a bank account on his name.  Maxim will only be able to use this account when he is 18.  But until than, both I and Olga can transfer small amounts of money to that account – 10 or 20 pounds a month.

As a result, if we’d do that, Maxim will have a good sum of money to start the adult life.  (Calculations for the lazy ones: 10 pounds per month x 12 month per year = 120 pounds per year.  Maxim is now 1 year old.  That means that he has another 17 years to go before he can use the account.  120 pounds per year x 17 years = 2040 pounds + bank percentage.  4080 + percentage you’re willing to make it 20 pounds per month).

I understand that for many parents saying this outloud is like repeating that the planet Earth is round, but for me it was a completely new unconsidered idea.  I’ll be rushing back to the bank with Maxim’s birth certificates one of these days.

Re: digitally tagging height

This is my response to this post in Sanjay’s blog. I originally wrote this as a comment, but before I pressed “Submit” button, I thought that it would be better to have it here, with all the crosslinks.

Sanjay noticed that pictures like the one of Maxim on his birthday are a cool new way of saving height measurements. That is instead of using old ways of pen, rule, and wall. He regrets only that there is no date and time information on the picture.

Well, that’s not a problem at all, my dear friend! Most of the modern digital cameras save a lot of meta information in the image file. With right tools that information is trivial to extract (Google search for “EXIF”).

I put a bit more thought into the idea and realized that it can actually be much more fun. With data and time of the image available from the image file itself, we are missing only one bit for a complete picture – the age of a child. Since there is no automatic way of getting it, a human interaction is necessary.

And where there is human interaction, there is social interaction. Flickr comes to mind. Consider this for a moment:

Parents make pictures of their kids against a height meter. Then, they upload these images to Flickr. Then, they tag these images with three tags. One tag for the age of the child, say “age14month” or “age2years”. One tag for the height itself, say “76cm” or “132cm”. And one additional tag to make these pictures easy to find, say “kidsgrow”. Maybe an image pool or user group would be a better way of goind about it.

With setup like this, there is a central location, where all such images are stored (backup). People can then easily find all pictures of their own kids, as well as other kids of the same age or the same height.

There are also a whole bunch of third-party applications that can utilize data from Flickr, like, for example, fd’s Flickr Toys.

How do you like the sound of that?

The World Is Flat

This video is off a smart guy talking to MIT crowd about globalization. The speech is titled after the book he wrote – “The World Is Flat“. This is the most interesting speech on the subject of globalization that I’ve ever heard. It’s very widely scoped too – it touches on everything from Berlin wall and Netscape browser to 9/11 and open source. I’ll be ordering the book shortly too.

The speech is in Real Media format and is about one hour long, so you might want to install Real Player and find a large piece of time, if you plan on watching it.

After I saw it, I was somewhat tired. The speech is very thought provoking and it made my brains work hard. Packing it all into my head felt like dealing with a wardrobe of clothes and a tiny bag. Things were falling out of it all the time and I couldn’t manage the zipper to close.

Rarely I feel like this.